Portraits are some of the most wide-spread art forms both in time and in mediums. They have been used for centuries to tell a person’s stories. They are intimate and personal and – when done right – can be powerful. Portrait photographs are expressive and emotional. Many amateurs believe that it the theory is simple – find someone, set the scene and shoot. However, without taking some important points into account they are often disappointed in their shots. In this post, we will explore some of the basics needed for portrait photography.
When developing your short, consider the distance that you want between you and your subject. There are two typical portrait shots: close up and torso and full body. Each one has the potential to share a very different story about the individual being featured.
Close Up: This type of portrait is one of the most intimate. It shows every wrinkle and detail of your subject’s face. Beyond that, focuses on the eyes which can share a powerful story of their own.
Torso and Full Body: In these types of portraits, more of the subject is physically exposed. At the same time as giving more context to viewer’s, it also create more distance (literally and figuratively) between the viewer and the subject. Things like clothing and environment can influence how the final shot is interpreted.
The surroundings of a subject give context to the viewers and help them interpret and digest the final shot. The environment can also allow you to focus on particular elements of the subject. A studio shot will result in a much different image than one that may feature an artist in their studio.
As we’ve explored in many of our posts about landscape photography – lighting can play a key part in the mood and emotions of an image. If choosing natural light, consider the time of year or day and how the sun plays with the subject and different elements of the environment. In a studio setting, don’t forget to play around with different lighting distances and angles to see how they influence the image.
Beyond aperture, ISO and shutter speed, different lenses can all influence the final look of the image. When you have the desired set-up for your portrait, test different settings and lenses to see what results fit your vision the most.
Remember, you are shooting a living, breathing individual so the human factor is something that is invaluable. Make an effort to connect with your subject, that connection adds power to the final shots.
Portrait photography is a mix of each of these elements and more. If you’re an aspiring portrait photography, it is important to practice different mixes of each to perfect your style.